Redskins try to duck quarterback injury blitz Gibbs says his team has had its share


HERNDON, Va. -- The Washington Redskins know quarterback injuries the way Bo knows commercials.

After two more starting quarterbacks, Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dave Krieg of the Seattle Seahawks, were injured in the opening games Sunday, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday: "I'm hoping this year will be the year we don't have to go through that. We've been hurt in the past at quarterback at lot. That can have a tremendous effect on your team."

The Redskins lost Joe Theismann with a career-ending broken leg in 1985; Jay Schroeder with a shoulder injury in the 1987 opener; Doug Williams with a back ailment in 1987, an appendectomy in 1988 and back surgery in 1989; and Mark Rypien with a shoulder injury in 1988 and a knee injury last year.

Quarterback injuries are one reason the Redskins have done a lot of scrambling the past six seasons and missed the playoffs three of those seasons, although they won the Super Bowl in the 1987 season, when Schroeder and Williams were both sidelined at times. Schroeder was benched in the final regular-season game, and Williams led the team through the playoffs.

Now it's the Redskins who are watching their foes struggle to cope with quarterback injuries.

Two of the teams in their division -- the Phoenix Cardinals and the Eagles -- have lost their quarterbacks for the season with knee injuries.

Cunningham went out in the opener Sunday, and Timm Rosenbach of the Cardinals blew out his knee during a training-camp practice.

If you count Phil Simms of the New York Giants, who has been TTC benched, three of the five NFC East quarterbacks who started last season are sidelined.

The only two survivors so far -- Rypien and Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys -- will duel Monday night in Dallas. The Redskins blew out the Detroit Lions, 45-0, and the Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns, 26-14, in their openers.

Meanwhile, the Redskins, who will play the Eagles in a Monday night game Sept. 30, know how difficult it will be for the team to cope with the loss of Cunningham, even though they have Jim McMahon coming off the bench.

"When you lose a guy like Cunningham, it's a serious blow to your team," Rypien said.

Defensive lineman Eric Williams said, "Any time a starting quarterback gets hurt, it's a big thing."

Defensive lineman Markus Koch said: "It changes Philadelphia's whole offense a lot, a whole lot. That's probably the biggest change a team would have to make, losing a guy like Cunningham."

Center Jeff Bostic said, "That's got to be pretty devastating for them."

Cunningham's injury also raises the question of whether the league is in for a new rash of quarterback injuries.

Cunningham and Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins had been the only quarterbacks to start every game since 1987, and Rosenbach and Krieg were the only quarterbacks to take every snap last year. Krieg went out with a broken thumb in the opener.

Gibbs, who has put a lot of emphasis on Rypien's staying healthy this year, said he doesn't think quarterback injuries are inevitable.

"I don't think it's impossible [for quarterbacks to stay healthy]. A lot of them will stay healthy. It's been a concern of ours in the past because he's [Rypien] been hurt two years in a row [actually two of the past three years], and, so, hey, we've just to see what happens," Gibbs said.

Although Rypien said that "accidents happen," he added that the team does a lot of work to avoid blind-side hits on the quarterback.

"I feel fortunate in being in a system like this," he said. "If you get hit from the blind side, it probably means you missed a read."

The Redskins didn't miss much in their opener against the Lions, although Gibbs said the Lions "had a real mental letdown right before the game" when they found out running back Barry Sanders couldn't play.

"At the same time, I'm going to enjoy it," Gibbs said. "It's been a long time since we've had that kind of game. The best part about the whole thing is that we had great hustle and we made a bunch of plays. That's hard to beat."

The only thing Gibbs could find to worry about is whether the team will have a letdown next week.

"Now we have to deal with being able to take a big win like that and put it in perspective. We have to see if we can come back and play a real good game next week. We have to see if we can handle prosperity," he said.

NOTES: Gibbs said he couldn't understand why WR Gary Clark got a celebrating penalty after catching a touchdown pass in the third quarter. He said Clark ran through the end zone waving his arms the way he usually does when he scores. Gibbs said he didn't see anything on the videotape that called for a penalty. "Man, I'll tell you, it showed absolutely nothing. Maybe they [the league office] can explain it." . . . He then said jokingly: "I was over behind the bench doing the Ickey Shuffle. Didn't you all see that? I didn't even get penalized."

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